AOTY 2023
Björk - Homogenic
Mar 22, 2022
When there is discussion around art in any form, it’s easy to get caught up in what makes a piece of art “good”, and in contrast, what makes a piece of art hideous or insufferable. I think it’s important to remember that art is born from the deepest parts of humanity, and in a curious way, music has grown just as humanity has.

If you look at it retrospectively, it’s been an outlet for humanity’s evolution over time - to express every conceivable emotion, some with no name, becoming time capsules, symbolic of where we may have been at that time. Consider some of the amazing poetry & song-writing that’s come out as a result of the effects from the recent pandemic. Of course, each piece of music is going to mean something different, because it also functions as a similar expression of those same emotions on a personal level for that particular artist… but that’s the beauty of it; because music has evolved in tandem with humanity so closely that it’s basically in our DNA, it only calls back to the fact that this art form that people love to critique as good or bad is still coming from a person with feelings. In it’s rawest form, Björk’s “Homogenic” is that to a tee.

There could not possibly be a better way to prepare the listener for this transcendental record than with Hunter. We always think of songs in minor keys as either haunting or depressive, but this song is neither of those. It feels confident, it feels victorious, all while Bjork is singing about the pressures of being in the music industry and the weight of being a successful artist. This goes right into Joga - one of my all time favorite Björk songs, perhaps one of my favorite songs in general. The string arrangements on top of these muted, skittering effects as Bjork sings so impassioned is impossibly good like I can’t handle how good it is. The lyrics are exquisitely cryptic, but not so much that you can’t tell this is a tragic love song. Also, the distorted NIN-type bridge with those nasty keys is such a nice touch, and somehow it doesn’t take away from the otherwise gorgeous orchestration… not even a little bit. So frantic and yet so restrained.

Unravel is another favorite of mine. If the tragic lyricism in Joga was an open wound, Unravel is a limbic amputation. “The devil collects it with a grin, our love in a ball of yarn, he’ll never return it.” WOW. This song is clearly in 4/4 time, but it somehow feels off-beat in the most wonderful way possible, only adding to the intense vulnerability of this track.

Bachelorette is one of the most powerful tracks here, the intense builds on this track are so organic and lush, so full of LIFE! The strings and low keys are incredibly vivid, and this is one of Björk’s most impressive vocal performances across the entire record. All Neon Like starts with Björk going a capella mode before some gentle keys creep in that eventually float into this thick bass pattern that repeats throughout the song. This track is so good at slowly introducing all these new elements, like the ringing and buzzing keys that make their way in after the first chorus. All Neon Like is like a tapestry of sounds but it’s a magical tapestry that grows it’s own fabric and keeps getting more and more colorful by itself.

Also did I mention the transitions on this record are flawless?? I look and hope for that in all records, and there are some brilliant ones here. 5 Years, a performance by Björk that’s unique in that she messes around in her more baritone register over what is arguably the most skeletal production on the album, bleeds seamlessly into Immature. This is a more upbeat cut, but it’s got this restraint to it with super gentle xylophone and clacking kettledrums. It’s calming but it’s got a groovy energy to it, accompanied by the catchy vocal motifs that Björk wails out.

A massive bop comes out of left-field with Alarm Call, this is like Homogenic’s equivalent to Big Time Sensuality. Earworm synths, hard-hitting electronic drums, and Björk serving up some fun ad-libs like the oooOOooOoOoo and the beep beep. This warms you up for Pluto, which is arguably the wackiest song of the bunch. There is a lot going on here, I mean there’s Björk’s ear-piercing distorted screaming, these syncopated drum patterns that are so off-putting but in a good way… it’s one of those things that you need to hear for yourself.

Homogenic’s quality is incomparably opulent. When you hear how dense this record is, it won’t feel like 43+ minutes. As if the record couldn’t get any better, All is Full of Love presents the most perfect way to end such a mystical experience. It sends this record off with a positive message backed by optimistic horns, icy synthesizers, and this space of vocal layering reminiscent of ripples in water.

Over the course of her career, Björk has proven herself to be one of the most heartfelt, genuine, and humble musicians of our time. Her work is evident of the parallels between the transformations of humanity and music alike in a way that few artists have achieved. Homogenic is a crowning achievement for Björk, a reflection of the spirit, and an embrace of realization.

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